Flow cytometric screening of blood samples for malaria parasites

Cytometry. 1993;14(3):276-80. doi: 10.1002/cyto.990140307.


An automated method for the detection and estimation of malaria parasites in blood samples using flow cytometry is presented. In a single-step procedure 50 microliters of blood sample was collected in 1 ml of lysis solution containing formaldehyde, causing red blood cells to lyse while parasites and white blood cells are preserved. Thus prepared, samples could be transported and remained stored in lysis solution until flow cytometric analysis was performed. The cells were stained for DNA with the fluorescent dye Hoechst 33258 and subsequently analyzed by a FACStar flow cytometer. Parasites and white blood cells were distinguished and counted based on blue Hoechst fluorescence and forward scattering. Since red blood cells were lysed, parasite numbers were given related to the number of white blood cells similar to what is done in microscopic examination of thick blood smears. In dilution experiments with animal and human material, parasite counts by flow cytometry correlated very well with the theoretically calculated numbers (regression coefficients of > 0.94). In human material parasitemias of approximately 0.005% were detected. In a pilot study, 700 samples were collected in Thailand and screened by microscopic examination of thick smears and by flow cytometry; 29 were found positive by combining both methods, 2 were missed by flow cytometry, and 20 were missed by microscopists in the field. After microscopic reexamination in the central laboratory, 15 of these 20 were found positive, 5 remained unconfirmed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bisbenzimidazole
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • DNA / analysis
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hemolysis
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Malaria / epidemiology
  • Malaria / parasitology*
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Plasmodium berghei / isolation & purification
  • Plasmodium falciparum / isolation & purification*
  • Platelet Count
  • Thailand


  • Formaldehyde
  • DNA
  • Bisbenzimidazole